By Igor Studenkov | Bugle Staff
Suburban transit agency Pace recently launched a planning study for a new express bus service along Dempster Street.
The study is part of Pace’s long-term plan to create a network of arterial rapid transit routes in some of its busiest transit corridors. These ART buses would make fewer stops than regular buses, and buses would get traffic signal priority under certain circumstances. Pace is currently working to build an ART route along Milwaukee Avenue, and its long-term plans call for ART routes along Harlem Avenue, Golf Road and Touhy Avenue.
Pace spokesman Patrick Wilmot told the Bugle that the study process was still in the early stages, so discussing many concrete details would be premature. But he indicated that the route would have the same alignment as the current Route 250. The agency is currently planning to finalize the design between 2017 and 2018 and launch the new service in 2019.
Route 250 runs between the Purple Line Davis ‘L’ station in downtown Evanston and the O’Hare International Airport’s Kiss-‘n’-Fly facility. For the most part, it follows Dempster, running through Evanston, Skokie, Morton Grove, Niles, Park Ridge, Des Plaines and Rosemont. It makes stops at several regional train and bus hubs, including the CTA “Skokie Swift” Yellow Line’s Dempster-Skokie ‘L’ station and Metra’s Union Pacific Northwest Line’s Des Plaines station.
At the O’Hare Kiss ‘N’ Fly facility, passengers can transfer to the Airport Transit System – an automated train system that runs between all of O’Hare’s terminals. Route 250 passes near East Maine High School, Notre Dame College Prep High School, Advocate Lutheran General Hospital and the All-State Arena.
On school days, Pace runs special Route 250 buses that pick up and drop off students at Maine East and Maine West high schools.
Wilmot told the Bugle that the planning study for what Pace has dubbed the Pulse Dempster Line is still in the very early stages.
“We have not begun public or stakeholder outreach,” he said. “At this point we are working internally on project management and development.”
Because of this, Wilmot explained that it was too early to talk about any plans for station alignments, service frequencies, schedules and other details.
However, Pace’s application for congestion mitigation and air quality improvement funding lays out the basic concept for Pulse Dempster. It calls for a total of 16 stops. It would stop at all transit hubs along the route and most major intersections, including the intersections of Milwaukee and Dempster in Niles and Waukegan and Dempster and Austin and Dempster in Morton Grove. In Park Ridge, it would stop at Advocate Lutheran Hospital and Maine East.
According to Pace’s official website, Pulse Dempster would have the same amenities as Pulse Milwaukee. Each stop would have a raised, handicapped-accessible platform, larger signage, passenger shelters, a display with real-time bus arrival information and bike racks. Pace would also buy special buses that will have on-board Wi-Fi and USB-based chargers.
The grant application indicated that, as with Pulse Milwaukee and Route 270, Route 250 wouldn’t go away entirely once Pulse Dempster is launched. Just how often Route 250 would run hasn’t been determined, however.
According to the CMAQ grant application, Pace estimated that project would cost a total of $26.46 million with $19.15 million of that coming from the grant.
The project timeline posted on the Pace website indicates that the planning study will run through 2016. Actual construction isn’t expected to start until 2018, with the service launching in 2019.